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Edward Voynilovich, prominent Minsk region reformer

The Minsk region reformer, the leading Belarusian and Polish social and political figure of the XIX – early XX centuries and the philanthropist. He brought the agriculture of Belarus to a new level and initiated the famous Red Church construction.

Edward Voynilovich was born in 1847 in the village Slepianka near Minsk to a wealthy noble family of Adam Voynilovich and Anna Vankovich. He got education at the St. Petersburg State Technological Institute, and then did the course at Belgian and Dutch factories, from where he brought the modern European experience.

In 1888, Edward Voynilovich was elected Vice-Chairman of the Minsk Agriculture Society. He had great authority over landowners of the Minsk Governorate, a governorate of the Russian Empire during the period of 1793 – 1921, because it was him who initiated the bill to abolish the servitude law, which was the largest remnant of serfdom.

Great Russian reformer Piotr Stolypin offered Mr Voynilovich a post of agriculture minister of the Russian Empire but the latter eventually refused.

In 1904, one of the Russian Empire’s largest wood yards was created in Minsk, near the present-day Tsentralnyi cinema, which was the first to start exporting Russian wood.

One of the most striking episodes in the agrarian society’s life became a big agricultural exhibition of 1901, which demonstrated the advances in farming for a quarter of the century to the whole country. It is worth noting that the exhibition brought huge profits.

Edward Voynilovich was also elected to the State Duma three times, and in 1906, he became a member of the State Council (Russia) and represented the Minsk Governorate. Voynilovich was always busy with different kind of work. It seemed that he just wanted to forget about the family tragedy... 

His children, 12-year-old son Simeon and 19-year-old daughter Elena both died of tuberculosis within a short period of time.

In this connection the parents decided to donate a huge sum of money, today it is about $12 million, to construct a church in commemoration of their children in Minsk. The construction of the Church of Saints Simon and Helena was ended in 1910, where Voynilovich’s children were buried.

The masterpiece of red-brick architecture is the most famous Roman Catholic church in Minsk. The author is a Polish architect Tomasz Pajzderski. The bricks were brought specially from Częstochowa, a Polish holy site.

During the October Revolution and the Polish-Soviet War, revolutionary soldiers and farmers incited by the Bolsheviks committed a heinous demolition of the Voynilovich family’s manor. The cultural heritage of 11 generations was destroyed, including implements, portraits, artwork, a library and a valuable informative archive about a 400 years’ genealogy.

The incident made Voynilovich move to the Polish city of Bydgoszcz, where he built a large house for orphaned children and supported it until the end of his life. He died on June 16, 1928 and was buried in a local cemetery. However, he was reburied near the Red Church in 2006.

For many years, the Catholic church in Belarus has been preparing documents for Edward Voynilovich’s beatification. This is due to his moral human qualities and spiritual and economic contribution to the development of Belarusian history.

Moreover, the Church community is collecting signatures for renaming Sovetskaya Street Edward Voynilovich Street.

Certainly, the reformer of his time, a talented economist, the man who gave us the country’s visiting card, the Red Church, deserves to have a street called in his honor.

Edward Voynilovich, Minsk region reformer